In advance, this may be controversial and may be edited when I’m not rushing out. xxchar48
I’ve spent the last two weeks shadowing the department of reproductive medicine and sexual health. This can effectively be summarised by meeting women who want babies and can’t get pregnant, women who get pregnant and then have threatened or complete miscarriage, and women who become pregnant and decide to terminate.
Something I like about obstetrics and gynaecology is that it’s an emotive field and being a good communicator is important – you see people at their most vulnerable, when the future for whatever reason, seems uncertain. I want to be a doctor whom patients remember for being supportive, understanding and competent – not just the person who whipped out their appendix or took off their mole, and never saw again. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (by which I mean ten days….) you may have read that the start of this week was tough. I’ve been worn down by counselling, sleepless nights and some family bereavements. Added to this, I’ve found myself crying most days for these women and their lost or absent babies, and although I know my low mood contributes to my being able to turn on the waterworks at the drop of a hat, I know it’s also because these stories are tragic at times, and I wonder what some of these women will be feeling about this week, years from now. Many may still mourn. Some may have regrets. All will remember.
I’ve thought about ethics a lot this week and it’s been a running theme for the last eighteen months that since becoming a Christian, some opinions of mine have changed. In some cases, I have been glad for the teaching God has given me and for example, have rethought a lot of how I approach difficult situations. I try not to speak ill of people and have tried to keep showing compassion and love to people who I come up against, even when I’d rather be mentally throwing darts at their photograph (or them in some occasions). I have started donating more to charity and talk to more people on the street. I view some of my friendships with young men differently and consider my own vanity more and why I cling to it so much. This has all made me grow and learn. It’s brought me closer to Jesus’ side.
Some of my opinions however have not changed, and I actually hope they do not alter as I grow in faith, regardless of what the Bible or the elders of my church say. I will never agree, for example that homosexuality is a sin in itself and that civil partnership is inferior to marriage. I will never accept the belief that some jobs and tasks are unsuitable for women. I will never start dividing friends into ‘Christian and non-Christian’ groups and tar each group with generalised assumptions about their actions, morality and standing, and there are other things with which I won’t waste space. This may be controversial to some, but the minute my attitude towards any of this changes is the minute church will no longer be the place for me. I want and believe that my attempts to love people regardless of circumstance come from God, and that anything that rejects them or hurts them, is not of Him in the slightest.
This week I’ve met women undergoing terminations of pregnancy and have been forced to think on this issue again. After helping carry out ultrasound scans on women undergoing potential miscarriage on the other side of the hospital, and seeing that from six weeks, the life inside looks quite a bit like the fully formed baby it could one day become, I’m no longer so assured of the pro-life stance I embraced as a teenager keen to get up on every high horse in the near vicinity.
I’ve known for a while that I could never terminate a pregnancy of my own but still thought to some extent that it was a personal choice to each woman to make – her call, her misgivings and her consequences to deal with afterwards. I am unsure now. My view is possibly clouded as I was sitting in on the ‘social clinics’, where women are seeking termination for problems with finance, housing, or often it just ‘not being the right time’ – not because there is a problem preventing pregnancy continuing for whatever reason. For each of these women, all I could think was that they could easily carry this pregnancy through. They could continue with it, and then either keep the child, or give it to someone else desperate for the opportunity to be a mother. They don’t have to get rid of it, often in what can only be described as a brutal procedure to undergo.
There’s no doubt that unplanned pregnancy can be catastrophic; we’ve all seen television programmes about teenage or otherwise vulnerable mothers, or met them through school, outreach or in our communities. There’s no doubt that for a victim of sexual assault, carrying a resultant child may do significant harm. But in some cases, perhaps the ethics aren’t as grey as we would like them to be. Perhaps in some situations, we should be saying, ‘this is a consequence you must deal with. This is a child you have been blessed with, and that deserves a chance. This is a life, and life means something’. It means something big.
I don’t know the answer. I do know that my heart has been close to breaking a lot this week for these families. I do know that my opinions and priorities are likely to change as I go from early twenties to later life or change from being single to in a relationship to married. I just hope that the opinions and decisions I make are made from love and not from judgement. I know that if I stick to God, He will gradually change my heart and, as my modern church regularly says, ‘make me look more like Jesus’. I’m excited for this as long as it comes from compassion. I would rather cry with someone, than be the one making them cry alone. I’d rather be part of solutions than problems. As a doctor, I will be expected to have opinions of sociological issues although this forms little of my training. I hope that God will guide me in these and put the right words in my mouth. I hope that He will continue to hone my ways and bring me closer. I hope that I will keep caring and keep working out how to reduce the need to make these decisions in the first place. I guess I hope for a lot of things.